Alaska’s Afognak Island State Park is known for an amazing array of wildlife as well as its pristine, rugged and underdeveloped environment that attracts outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. The island itself is the second largest island in the Kodiak Island Borough and is located northeast of Kodiak Island.
Afognak Island State Park is on the north and east side of Afognak Island, and its western border abuts part of the Kodiak National Wildlife. The park also encompasses three bays on the Gulf of Alaska—Perenosa, Seal and Tonki Bays. The entire park is a pristine habitat that is largely untouched with the exception of an area that was logged late in the 20th century which is south of Seal Bay.
A Bit of History
The island and its parks were initially known as the Afognak Forest and Fish Culture Preserve when it became one of the U.S.’s first wildlife conservation areas in 1892. The area was reclassified in 1908 to become part of the Chugach National Forest where it remained until 1980 when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act transferred the land to native corporations. Afognak Island State Park didn’t exist in its current form until the area was purchased between 1994 and 2001, using funds designated for the purpose of protecting and restoring wildlife habitats lost as a result of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.
The Place for Wildlife & Outdoor Recreation
Old Sitka spruce forests and rugged topography make the park an ideal place for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy nature that has been largely untouched by progress. The island waters are a spawning grown for a variety of species of Alaska Bay’s salmon; and the endangered marbled murrelet makes its home in the park as well. The Kodiak brown bear, Roosevelt elk and Sitka black-tailed deer are also common sites in the park.
In the waters surrounding the island park, visitors may see finbacks, gray whales, humpbacks or orcas; and seals, sea lions and sea otters make their homes in the coastal waters as well. The coast is also home to beaver, ermine, fox, white river otters and marten. There is excellent saltwater fishing available, particularly for halibut, red snapper, sea bass and flounder.
With all of this natural beauty and abundant wildlife, Afognak Island State Park is a great place to hike, fish, comb the beaches, bird watch, hunt, bike, kayak, or just relax and enjoy the scenery.
Unique Lodging Opportunities
There are two restored U.S. Forest Service cabins available for public use within the park which are actually U.S. Forest Service cabins that have been restored. They are both located on remote lakes.
Laura Lake Cabin is on the northern end of the island and near Pauls Bay. Visitors arrive at this cabin after a 35-minute float plane flight from Kodiak. The cabin is a perfect home base to enjoy three-mile-long Laura Lake, which is at the epicenter of the active Pauls and Laura Lakes salmon spawning system. Visitors should use extra caution during spawning season because of the many bears that are attracted by the spawning salmon. Laura Lake Cabin is accessible only in the warmer weather months when the lake is not frozen. The area is densely covered with Sitka spruce and rough terrain which can make travel particularly challenging.
The Pillar Lake cabin is also only accessible when the lake is not iced over. Visitors to this cabin take a 20-minute float plane flight from Kodiak to get there. A true escape from the world, there are no developed trails in the area. The ocean and a mile-long beach are close by, and a two-hour hike to the east will bring visitors to the alpine area. Anglers will enjoy the opportunity to fish for Dolly Varden trout in Pillar Lake, although they should be aware that there aren’t any salmon streams nearby.